LIMA — Horse racing is known as the sport of kings. And although it’s uncertain just when the first equines were lined up to see which was the fastest, it’s generally accepted that the tradition of racing horses at county fairs dates back at least to the middle of the 19th century.
And while some fairs around the country have turned their backs on the sport, visitors to the 157th edition of the Allen County Fair will have two cards of harness racing from which to choose — just as they have for decades. And it’s all free, with paid admission to the fair.
Dennis Fricke has been a director at the Allen County Fair for 22 years. He said interest in harness racing in Lima is as strong as ever — maybe stronger.
“We always have nice crowds here for the harness races. I think with all the new racinos, there has been an increase in interest,” said Fricke.
The Dunlap-Renner Memorial Pace is Monday. Fricke said the race is named for former fair directors Herb Dunlap and Dale Renner and annually attracts some of the top harness racing talent in the region.
The Allen County Supertrot is Tuesday. It is a part of the statewide Signature Series that traces its roots back to Lima more than 30 years ago. The Signature Series for horses age 4 years and older attracts entrants from all across the state.
And a special race during Tuesday’s card is the Ohio Ladies Pace event, an event which will feature women in the sulkies. The unique race was started by Limaland female drivers some three years ago, said Fricke.
Pari-mutuel wagering is a large attraction for fair goers, Fricke said. And betting on races is financially lucrative for the local fair board.
“When I first became a director we were taking in $25,000-$30,000 a night from pari-mutuels. Even now the board makes about $15,000 from a night of harness races,” Fricke said.
The Ohio Racing Commission oversees all wagering, he said.